Tottenham hold talks with Mauricio Pochettino over return as manager
Tottenham have held talks with Mauricio Pochettino over a sensational return to the club. Pochettino, sacked by Spurs 18 months ago, joined Paris Saint-Germain in January and has caused surprise by entertaining the idea of a swift return to London.
The Argentinian is believed to be interested in reviving his former club, who have encountered frustration in their attempts to replace José Mourinho, and the previously ridiculous notion of a reunion could come to pass.
There is a sense that Pochettino, who has a year remaining on his contract at PSG, is not satisfied there. Reports in Italy have suggested he is unsure about working with Leonardo, the sporting director, and PSG have endured a difficult season. Although Pochettino won the Coupe de France, his star-studded team finished second in Ligue 1 to Lille and lost their Champions League semi-final to Manchester City.
Much will depend on PSG’s response. The French club are reluctant to lose Pochettino and could block any attempt to leave. PSG, who hired Pochettino after firing Thomas Tuchel last December, would prefer to avoid the upheaval of having to find a manager this summer.
Tottenham, who fired Mourinho in April, have not been put off by PSG’s stance. The appointment of Pochettino would be a huge boost to Daniel Levy, Tottenham’s beleaguered chairman. Levy, who replaced Pochettino with Mourinho, has faced criticism after a disappointing season that ended with Tottenham seventh in the Premier League and qualifying for the Europa Conference League.
A further potential complication for Tottenham is that Pochettino is being targeted by Real Madrid as a replacement for Zinedine Zidane, who has quit. Pochettino has been pursued by Florentino Pérez, the Spanish club’s president, in the past and is understood to be high on their list of potential candidates.
Pochettino remains a huge favourite with Tottenham’s supporters. He inspired the team to title challenges in 2016 and 2017, before taking them to the Champions League final in 2019. They were beaten by Liverpool, however, and Pochettino had left by the end of the year.
Tottenham, who finished the season with Ryan Mason in caretaker charge, are in limbo. Harry Kane has made it clear he wants to leave, sparking interest from Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, and the squad is in need of reinforcements.
Levy is under pressure to pick the right manager and has put previous plans on hold to pursue Pochettino. Tottenham have not ruled out Erik ten Hag, even though he could be out of reach after signing a contract extension until 2023 at Ajax, and spoke to the former Bayern Munich manager Hansi Flick before he decided to take the Germany job.
Other names on the list have included Brendan Rodgers, who is highly unlikely to leave Leicester, and Brighton’s Graham Potter, who lacks experience at the highest level. Tottenham have spoken to the unemployed Ralf Rangnick, although it is unclear whether discussions focused on a sporting director role. It is understood that Antonio Conte, who left Internazionale by mutual consent on Wednesday, is interested in the job.
For now, however, the focus is on Pochettino. It would be a major gamble for him to walk away from an elite club and take on a rescue mission in north London. Yet Pochettino, although he has relished the chance to work with Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, is not enamoured of the internal politics at PSG.
Another factor is that Pochettino has struggled with being away from his family during the pandemic. He has been living in a hotel in Paris with his assistants, Jesús Pérez and Toni Jiménez, and his son, Sebastiano, who works as PSG’s fitness trainer. He is understood to be missing his wife and his other son, Maurizio, who are in London.